Six Tips for Job Interviews via Skype

As mentioned on Wednesday, I’ve applied for an internship at Fast Horse Inc., a boutique consumer marketing agency in Minneapolis, Minn. Moments after posting, I got a call to set up an interview for today. Via Skype.

Hello, future.

It wasn’t so long ago such a thing would require a cross-country flight and hotel accommodations. All of this could total over $1,000 just for 45 minutes of face time. Instead, FHI — like many other businesses — has embraced free webcasting technologies like Skype, Google Chat or UStream to perform face-to-face interviews on short notice.

Mind you, I’m a rookie at webcasting. I was excited my MacBook came with a built-in webcam when I purchased it two years ago, but it goes largely unused, except for when my girlfriend needs to see her family.

This compelled me to search for tips on how to nail a job interview via Skype. You would think such a thing is easier because you can do it from a comfortable location without the stress of traveling and meeting new people. This format comes with its own pressures, though. Think back to the 1960 Kennedy-Nixon debates, where it’s believed Nixon was walloped for having looked so haggard on TV. You might look presentable in person, but webcam is a different beast.

Some things to consider:

  1. Lighting. Does the lighting in the room work for you or against you? For example, bright background can make you look dark and menacing. Too much like and you’ll look washed out. It’s best to face a window with the shades slightly drawn so everything is illuminated evenly.
  2. Wear dark colors. Bright colors can cause distortion with the webcam trying to balance so many different colors. Stick to dark, solid clothes. Stay away from patterns or anything that’ll draw attention from your eyes and mouth. (This format is already distracting, by nature. Keep it simple.)
  3. Look into the webcam. You may feel the urge to stare at the screen when talking, but the best way to replicate eye contact — as you would in a real face-to-face — is to stare directly into the webcam when speaking.
  4. Angle. Every site I went to recommended sitting at a slight angle. Aim your belly button just left or right of the computer screen. It’s like school pictures when you were a kid — angles just look better.
  5. Quit your tics. When we watch a broadcast — like the local news — we’re used to newscasters who speak without tics. Unfortunately, the same level of expectation will carry over to the Skype interview. Limit your ums and likes. Speak confidently. If it becomes a problem, slow up your pace.
  6. Be proficient. There’s no excuse to be unfamiliar with the software or service you’ll be using to webcast live. Practice, if you must, but you want to seem like a pro when interview time comes. Chances are, you’ll be forced to learn a ton of new things on the job. The last thing you want to do is appear easily discouraged or incapable.

(For more on job interviews by Skype, check out this great video from Time Magazine.)

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